Ahoy! A nuclear scandal ahead?

Posted by Louise Edge — 14 January 2011 at 6:09pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: John Cobb / Greenpeace

Remember the defence review? The one that left us marvelling at the Alice in Wonderland world we inhabit - where we build two giant aircraft carriers we don’t actually want because building them is actually cheaper than cancelling them? The one that said we can’t actually afford to buy any planes to put on those carriers?

Yes, that was also the review that told us that the thorny issue of whether to build a new generation of nuclear weapons had been kicked into the long grass. The long grass of 2016.

It said the potentially coalition-busting vote on whether or not to replace Trident could be delayed until after the next election – since the existing armed subs can be kept going for an extra four years or so.

With that announcement, the Liberal Democrats sent round the message:

“Trident will not be renewed this parliament - not on a Liberal Democrat watch. Let us be clear, this is a significant victory for Liberal Democrat campaigners, and a fantastic example of what our ministers can and do achieve in government”

At the time I wasn’t so sure about this supposed delay – and now it seems those concerns were well founded.

It seemed strange to me that despite this four year delay, the next step in the replacement programme - excitingly known as ‘Initialgate’ - seems to be staying very much on track. David Cameron even made a point of stressing this in his defence review speech to parliament.

Then alarm bells got louder when I read upbeat newspaper interviews with the boss of the submarine arm of BaE Systems (who are set to build any new subs) about staff increasing over the next few years (video) thanks to assurances from the government about Trident replacement.

So I decided to dig a little deeper to try and find out exactly what was going on.

This involved putting down a raft of parliamentary questions and filing Freedom of Information requests to various government departments.

Finally, much paperwork later we got a reply from the MoD – it shows that their plan is to sign and seal a huge long list of contracts ahead of the 2016 vote, before parliament has decided whether we actually want to build new nuclear subs.

And this isn’t a short shopping list – according to the documents (see page three) they intend to buy things like the submarine hull, the nuclear reactor, generators, switchboards, and “various components of the combat systems”.

I’m no sub designer but it begs the question: what’s left to buy and how much is all of this going to cost?

The simple answer is we don’t know – our Freedom of Information request on this was denied and the MoD answered a parliamentary question by saying the relevant information was not held centrally.

What we do know is that on average 10-15 per cent of total project costs are spent during the assessment phases of military projects. This would make an estimated £1.1-£2.1bn, based on government estimates from 2006 that new submarines cost £11-14bn. However these estimates have been widely criticised and we believe submarine costs are likely to rise substantially.

It sounds like if we don’t watch out we’ll get to the 2016 vote only to find out that we’ve already bought a large part of the first submarine, we’re already tied into various contracts, and the familiar voices will be saying to us that it’s cheaper to go ahead with business as usual than scrap Trident.

Deja vu, anyone?

We need to emphasise that Trident, or its replacement, could never be used lawfully. You can read more about this and sign your personal Affirmation of Nuclear Criminality on
George Farebrother, World Court Project UK

In these times, with so many problems for our global society on the horizon, investing billions in the capacity to blow one another up just seems incredibly short sighted.

The scale of the investment in trident is well illustrated here:



Unfortunately a refusal to supply information is the norn when the Ministry of Defence are asked to provide information about any costs to do with nuclear weapons.  This has nothing to do with security and everything to do with covering up how much the public really have to pay in taxes for weapons of war.

I hope Greenpeace will be appealing to the Information Commissioner about the MoD decision not to release cost information, as there is a strong case that it would be in the public interest to make the costs known to all of us who are paying for replacing Trident.

Well if we didn't renew our nuclear defence we would lose our seat on the security council of the UN. We would lose our nuclear detterence and the protection of MAD, I'd like to point out to the commentor Ben Darvill that the French, Soviets/Russian's, Chinese, American's, Indians, and Pakistani's have been investing in such weaponry for 66 years now and mysteriously not one city or country has turned into ashes since then.

I would suggest that the focus should be on states like india who whilst having huge pollution and over population problems continue to invest in such weaponry and space programs.

on the millenium new years eve, dec 31st 1999. a lone swimmer breached the perimeter of the faslane submarine base, swam underneath the ship-lift where he hid until the rising tide forced him out into the open. as the shivering stopped for the 5th/final time and hypothermia kicked in, he decided to call out, "hello sailor!"
a worried voice replied, "who's that?"
"its a protestor" was the reply.
BANDIT, BANDIT, BANDIT, ARROOOGA!, the alarm sounded
how fortunate for us all that this incident was before the advent of the suicide bomber.,.simon.x

Benn Darvill and PB Peter point out the economic costs of Trident replacement and the obfuscation by the Ministry of Defence. I have had the same experience from them on questions of legality. They never come up with a convincing scenario in which its use would be legal.

Joe Bloggs misses the point. The aim is to have all USE of nuclear weapons confirmed as a crime as a step towards a treaty on their global abolition

Spending this much money on a project that dosen't have any
application other than mass killing seems very off to me. Unfortunatly
people in this country seem to think they are still in charge of a vast
empire and are intitled to things like this simply because we are
supposed to be on the side of "good".

The whole thing reeks of
dishonesty and cover-ups; what can they possibly have to gain by keeping
the cost of the weapons to themselves other than to make up a more
"acceptable" number to feed people.

just read your post.I agree with george.

Thanks for your support Josh. Connelly's comment about "people in this country seem to think they are still in charge of a vast empire" reminds me of the useful adage that nuclear weapons are no more than a stick-on hairy chest - and a toxic one at that. Mass killing is grotesquely criminal and we must assert this with no ifs or buts.
Sorry to keep on pushing it but you can affirm this with some purpose, and learn more on www.nuclearweapons-warcrimes.org

Comments on the arguments used in this would be welcome.

Given the economy at the moment why are spending rediculous amounts of money on trying to blow each other up. I may be 14, but i now know for a fact that i have more sense than these people who in theory want to blow up thier own Earth!

Hannah has hit the nail firmly on the head. With all the talk about arms control and supposed national security, anyone who knows the simple facts about nuclear weapons - that they are engines of mass murder - knows that having them, and even thinking of using them, is a violation of all decency and morality.

The main purpose of buying and building a strong military is often not to actually defend a country. Many militaries only build new fleets, and weapons to give the public the feeling they are safe, when any number of weapons could kill them without the military having time to respond.

Yoooooooooou bastards.

    Take all the Testosterone out of the world and maybe all the wars will end and we will no longer have to fight everything and everyone.

    A very over used phrase but true......Make love not war........

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